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his conversion, as I was told by the person, (Lord Chief Justice North,) that administered the means to him, was this. The lord chief justice came once from Windsor with a lord of the privy council in his coach; and among other discourses, Scroggs asked that lord, if the Lord Shaftesbury, who was then lord president of the council, had really that interest with the king he seemed to have? No, replied that lord, no more than your footman has with you. This sunk into the man, and quite altered the ferment, so as, from that time, he was a new
Withins, whom North has occasion to mention, as the first person questioned in parliament for the crime of abhorring, (as it was popularly called,) appears to have possessed no other qualification for his office than extreme servility.-"He was one of moderate capacity in the law, but a voluptuary; and such are commonly very timid, and, in great difficulties, abject; otherwise, he was a very gentile person, what was called a very honest fellow, and no debtor to the bottle.”+
Of Jones and Weston, against whom a motion for impeachment was also made in the House of Commons, though Scroggs was the only one of the three against whom articles were actually prepared, North has given a more favourable, but extremely partial account. The first was “a very reverend and learned judge, a gentleman, and impartial; but being of Welsh extraction, was apt to warm, and, when much offended, often shewed his heats in a rubor of his countenance, set off by his grey hairs, but appeared in no other disorder ; for he refrained himself in due bounds and temper, and seldom or never broke the laws of his gravity.”I Mr. Baron Weston was a learned man, but being insupportably tortured with the gout, became of so touchy a temper, that any opposition to his opinion would “inflame him so as to make him appear as if he were mad; but when treated reasonably, no man ever was more a gentleman, &c. than he was.” His strict regard for justice, North has illustrated by an expression singularly applied. We have heard a woman described to be as chaste, but never before of a judge, who was “as just as the driven snow.” However, with all this, he was a high prerogative man, which our author affirmed an honest learned lawyer must necessarily be.
Pemberton and Saunders, if eminent for their abilities, were, at least, equally notorious for their vices: their portraits, favourably drawn, may be seen at full length in the Life of Lord Guilford, out of which, that of the latter has been extracted into
arlier. Fed his neippon him seldom was all be home
one of our earlier numbers.* “ He was a fetid mass,” says North, “ that offended his neighbours at the bar in the sharpest degree, and this decay came upon him by continual sottishness, for to say nothing of brandy, he was seldom without a pot of ale at his nose, or near him. That exercise was all he used; the rest of his life was sitting at the desk, or piping at home; and that home was a tailor's house in Butcher Row, called his lodging, and the man's wife was his nurse, or worse, &c.”+ “When the court fell into a steady course of using the law against all kinds of offenders, this man was taken into the king's business," in the course of which, it appears, he was deeply involved in the affair of the quo warranto against the City of London, and had the drawing up of all the indictments and informations that were prosecuted in the last year of Charles's reign. Yet he too “was as honest as the driven snow was white.”: The king, it seems, had observed him to be of a disposition free, loyal, friendly, and without greediness or guile, and thought of him to be the chief justice at that critical time. “So great a weight was then at stake, as could not be trusted to mén of doubtful principles, or such as any thing might tempt to desert them.” He certainly justified the king's discernment, for he stuck immoveably fast to the court, and with his last breath gave judgement in its favour against the City of London, in the iniquitous affair of the charter.
The rise of Pemberton had in it something very remarkable. In his youth he had mixed much with lewd and dissolute company, and quickly squandered all he was possessed of. He then ran so deep in debt, that he was thrown into gaol, where he lay many years, during which he pursued his studies so indefatigably, as to become one of the ablést men of his profession. Though a high prerogative man, it would seem, that he was not sufficiently violent or unscrupulous to satisfy the court, for he was removed from the Common Pleas to make way for Jones, the fiery. Welshman above commemorated." It was thought,” says Burnet, “ that his stating the matter with so little eagerness against Lord Russell, was that which cost him his place." The character of North, though less open to exception than that of any other of the judges employed by Charles, is not one for which we can entertain the least portion of respect. It is only certain kinds of trees that can flourish in certain soils; and under the shadow of an oppressive and illegal court, he attained to the highest promotion. “He had parts turned to craft, and was thought to mean ill,
even when he did well.” This is Burnet's character of the man, in which there possibly may be a good deal of prejudice; but no more need be said to show that he was suited to the times, and the times to him, than that he lived in friendship with Lauderdale, and was actively employed in the business of the sheriffs, and of the charter of the city of London. His conduct, too, in the case of Stephen Colledge, the protestant joiner, whom he took out of “ the magic. circle of the sheriff's protection,'* and tried and condemned at Oxford, was such, that if he had lived to see an impeaching parliament, he might have felt the ill effects of it.
Having thus slightly touched upon the characters of so many of the judges, it would be an unpardonable omission to pass over, without particular mention, the chief light and ornament of the English bar, in the reign of Charles. “ Sir George Jeffériés,” said Mr. Booth, in the speech cited above, “ I must say, behaved himself more like a jack-pudding, than with that gravity that becomes a judge. He was mighty witty upon the prisoners at the bar: he was very full of his jokes upon people that came to give evidence; not suffering them to declare what they had to say in their own way and method ; but would interrupt them, because they behaved themselves with more gravity than he: and, in truth, the people were strangely perplexed, when they were to give in their evidence; but I do not insist upon this, nor upon the late hours he kept up and down our city: It's said, he was every night drinking till two o'clock, or beyond that time; and that he went to his chamber drunk: but this I have only from common fame, for I was not in his company. I bless God, I am not a man of his principles or behaviour. But in the mornings he appeared with the symptoms of a man that over night had taken a large cup. But that which I have to say is the complaint of every man, especially of them who have any law-suits." op In all this, there is no exaggeration ;—the portrait of Jefferies, as drawn by North himself, in his life of Lord Guilford, I is equally odious and disgusting. Indeed, of all the writers who have attempted a delineation of his character, not one appears to have entirely failed; just as there are some faces, the lines of which are so harsh and uncouth, as to make it next to impossible for a painter not to succeed in catching the resemblance. Such were the men whom Charles selected to be, not the administrators of justice, but the convenient tools of his own arbitrary
* Sir Walter Scott. Notes on Absalom and Achitophel. Dryden, vol. ix.
+ Lord Délamere's Works. IP. 567. Also Ret. Rev. vol. ii. p. 251.
government; and according as in this capacity they were useful and compliant, so were they esteemed and promoted. Even Jefferies himself, as appears from the work before us, lost his favour, not for the wantonness of his behaviour, and his custom of menacing and intimidating others, but for confessing, by his conduct on one occasion, that he himself was not absolutely proof against intimidation. He had been reprimanded, along with Sir Francis Withins, for the crime of abhorring, and the house of commons demanded, as the condition of their suffering the prosecution to drop, that he should surrender his place of Recorder. *
“ The great difficulty, that lay upon the spirits of Sir George Jefferies, was to come off well with the king ; lest this compounding with the commons should confound him at court. Therefore he begged of his majesty, that he would give him leave to surrender his place; which the king was loth to do, because he was of such an overruling genius, and stern behaviour towards men whom he pretended to awe, as enabled him to be very influential among the citizens, and, in other respects, could not be so well employed. He beseeched, entreated, and importuned the king so very much, that, at last, the king granted his request; so, having his majesty's leave to resign, he took his chiding, and was, as he thought, rectus in curia. But the ever facetious king was pleased to laugh, and say, that Sir George Jefferies was not parliament proof; and however he found interest in corners about the court, the king never had a real value for him after."
The characters of these men, not one of whom but was unfitted either by the infirmities of nature, or want of principle, or profligacy of manners, for the high station which he disgraced, furnish satisfactory evidence how much “inclined to justice” was the prince, by whom they were promoted or displaced at pleasure. Added to their violent demeanour, and the illegality of their proceedings, the irregularity and intemperance of their private life degraded a character, which should always be venerable in the eyes of the public. The licentiousness and buffoonery which overspread the court, circulated throughout the nation, and displayed itself not only in the ordinary resorts of men, but in places most sacred to gravity or decorum. The Lord Chief Justice North, whose private life was untainted by the vices in which men of all ages, ranks, and situations, freely indulged, was seriously recommended by his brother-in-law to keep a mistress, lest his temperance should be looked upon with an evil eye, and visited as an offence by the court. + After all this, we certainly were not prepared to expect a conclusion like that, to which the author
* Examen, p. 550.
+ Ret. Rev. vol. ii. p. 249.
of the Examen invites his readers :-" I think I may, without injury to any age affirm, that, in no time since William the Conqueror, have the laws been executed, in all the courts of royal jurisdiction, with more justice, decorum, and impartiality, than in the reign of King Charles II.!"* .
But it is not for want of instances of injustice in the king's own personal conduct, that we have dwelt so long on the characters of those whom he raised to the bench, and to whose administration the old Scottish saying, “ show me the man, and I will show you the law,” might have been very generally and justly applied. In the strange practices carried on by the court, in the summer of 1651, to find matter against Lord Shaftesbury, the king was personally implicated, and believed to be chief director. $. He complained, indeed, to Lord Halifax and Burnet with great scorn of the imputation that
of Shaftesbury, who was so guilty of these practices, should attempt to fasten them on others.” But nothing more need be said on the subject, than that the men whom the court employed on this occasion, such as Dugdale, Tuberville, and others, were the witnesses in the Popish plot, whom the king had, all along, justly believed to be perjured,' and on whose evidence so many innocent Catholics had been put to death. This piece of Charles's policy is rather imprudently avowed by King David, in the conclusion of Absalom and Achitophel :
“ By their own arts 'tis righteously decreed,
The proceeding, so ingeniously disguised in the above liñes, was, as Burnet has bluntly observed, downright murder; for there is a wide difference between the criminality of those, who, partaking of an universal panic, were unable to exercise their judgement, and swallowed the most egregious fictions, and that of those, who, knowing the witnesses to be false, deliberately employed them to swear away the lives of their political enemies. When Charles took their evidence himself, as he frequently did, and appears to have been fond of doing, he seems to have made a parade of sincerity and fair-dealing. He told those whom he examined on the affair of the Rye-house plot, that he would not have a growing evidence, and charged
* Examen, p. 74..
† Burnet. | See Notes on Absalom and Achitophel, in Scott's Dryden, vol. ix. p. 311.